Comey Delivers Political Gut Punch to President Trump

On Monday, March 20, FBI Director James Comey and the director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers, are expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee This live blog will include highlights, context and analysis from NPR reports and correspondents.

During a press briefing, Spicer said some of those who are under investigation for their connections to Russian Federation, which is thought to have interfered in the 2016 election to attempt to swing it in Trump's favor, didn't have prominent roles on the Trump campaign - including one of Trump's former campaign managers.

Spicer said that while the FBI is investigating the circumstances of the 2016 campaign, "there is no evidence, according to the people that have been briefed, of any collusion or activity that leads them to believe that that exists".

Comey said the FBI was "investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts".

In a rare move, the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it's investigating whether Russian hackers had any links to President Donald Trump's election team. Nunes added, that, "the one crime we know that's been committed" were the leaks to the media that fueled these speculations. Comey and Rogers deflected many questions about specific parts of the probe or surveillance activities, saying they could not publicly discuss sensitive information. The Intelligence Committee chairman cited the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, dismissed by Trump for mischaracterizing his discussions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

During subsequent questioning, Comey addressed the controversy sparked by tweets sent by President Trump accusing his predecessor President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower, by saying that no evidence has been found to support such accusations.

"President Trump owes the American people and President Obama more than just an explanation, but an apology", said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. The FBI is looking into "the nature of any links" between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, he said.

"Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?" said representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee's top Democrat.

U.S. officials have said that they have so far found no proof of that, but current and former officials say they have uncovered evidence that Trump's associates were in repeated contact with Russian officials, including people tied to Russian intelligence. While Trump used the term "wire tapping", he and his aides say that now refers to "surveillance" in general.

Mr Schiff also put to Mr Comey the President's tweeted assertion that the wire-tapping "is McCarthyism!" House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News Sunday that he has seen no evidence of wiretapping Trump Tower and said he is leaving it to committees to investigate.

The high-stakes House hearing also is looking into efforts by Russian Federation to influence last year's election by hacking Democratic officials close to nominee Hillary Clinton, the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI.

Although members of Congress who have been privy to classified briefings have made similar declarations, the director's comment was the first public admission from anyone in a privileged position of knowledge within the U.S. intelligence community that the President's claim had no basis in fact.

United States intelligence agencies concluded in January that the President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation personally ordered a covert effort to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances and aid Trump.

Monday's hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The Obama administration in late December retaliated against Russia, imposing sanctions over the cyberattacks even as Russian officials continue to deny any involvement in the hacks.

  • Leroy Wright